Tulsa, Oklahoma (December 14, 2012) — In a short, 16-page opinion, an Oklahoma federal judge ruled late yesterday that the City of Tulsa and two of its senior police officials, Chief of Police Chuck Jordan and Deputy Chief of Police Daryl Webster, did not violate the constitutional rights of Captain Paul Fields, a Tulsa Police officer who was summarily punished for refusing to attend a mandated Islamic proselytizing event held at a local mosque. Despite the fact that the federal judge was required to view the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence in favor of Captain Fields before dismissing his constitutional claims, the judge concluded that “no reasonable jury could find Fields was personally ordered to attend” the Islamic event “because the directive at issue permitted him to assign others to attend rather than attend himself.” By doing so, the judge avoided addressing a central issue in this case, stating, “The issue of whether a directive requiring his personal attendance at the event would have violated his First Amendment rights need not be decided here.”
Robert Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of the American Freedom Law Center and lead counsel for Captain Fields in the case, commented, “This ruling is troubling on many levels. However, this fight is far from over. Judge Frizzell may have been the first judge to review and decide the important constitutional issues at stake in this case, but he won’t be the last. We will be appealing this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.”
Muise commented further, “Contrary to the judge’s ruling in this case, the evidence is undisputed and overwhelming that Captain Fields was punished for merely raising a religious objection to the mandatory order, and this included punishing him for refusing to attend the Islamic proselytizing event based on his sincerely held religious convictions. In short, the judge simply got it wrong. We are eager to get this case before the Tenth Circuit.”
As the sworn testimony in the case demonstrated, during the Islamic Event, the Muslim hosts discussed Islamic religious beliefs; they discussed Mohammed, Mecca, why Muslims pray, how they pray, and what they say when they are praying; they showed the officers a Quran; and they showed the officers Islamic religious books and pamphlets that were for sale and encouraged the officers to purchase them. Consequently, Captain Fields’ objections were completely justified and substantiated.
Muise concluded, “One of the tragedies of this case is that the City’s attorneys have decided to publicly vilify Captain Fields by denying the sincerity of his religious beliefs and falsely claiming that his religious objections were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiments. The bitter irony is that Captain Fields was one of the primary officers involved with helping to protect this mosque from a criminal suspect intent on doing harm, and it was this very incident that served as the justification for the ‘appreciation’ event in the first instance.